courtyards-2James Hulsizer with a depiction of the planned Courtyards at Monmouth. Below, an architect’s rendering from last summer. (Click to enlarge)

courtyards-at-monmouthRed Bank zoners held the first of what is expected to be a series of hearings on the details of a proposed 57-unit housing development on a neglected stretch of Monmouth Street Thursday night.

GS Realty, the unit of Amboy Bank that owns the site, is seeking a long list of variances, from building heights and setbacks from the street, in order to clear the way for the so-called Courtyards at Monmouth project.

Last July, byt a 5-2 vote, the zoning board granted a use variance for what members called “a very dense project” in a new train station zone formed to attract high-density housing and retailing, though the plan calls for no stores. At the time, those in favor cited a desire to jump-start construction on the 1.24-acre property, which is also bounded by West and Oakland streets.

The current hearings are aimed at establishing whether and how the project might deviate from zoning laws.

An attorney for the project said that since last summer, the bank had gotten “considerable input” from neighbors, including the Red Bank Charter School, resulting in a plan that would feature solar power of common areas, a rain garden and the introduction of the borough’s first car-share program.

The bulk of the Thursday’s testimony by experts for GS served to outline elements such as driveway access, sewer connections and the solar panels to be installed in canopies above parking spaces.

An engineer testified that the project would provide 67 parking spaces, including two reserved for the car-share program – which would be run by a nonprofit organization – and six for use by the charter school and the community when school is out.

Oakland Street’s Mandy Hanigan asked about garbage enclosures and the planting of taller trees to provide better privacy to adjoining homes. Engineer Gregory Valesi said the bank would look into providing the largest possible plantings in the buffer area.

Resident James Hulsizer praised the architecture of the project’s two proposed buildings, but expressed concern that the 12-unit structure along Oakland Street would be “right up against sidewalk.”

“There’s a pretty common setback along Oakland Street that’s not being matched,” he said, and asked if it could be. Lawyer Kenneth Pate replied that “there is no other location where the building can be placed” and still allow for adequate parking. “That building has a special purpose, it is an affordable housing building,” he said.

Former Mayor Ed McKenna was present in the audience to pull for the plan. “This is huge,” he told redbankgreen. “It’s a huge plus for the town.”

Bank officials pledged in July to provide an overall mortgage to a developer of the site, or to joint venture with one, to ensure the project gets built. They also said they would offer mortgages on every unit sold.

Here’s the agenda, with the full list of variances being sought: 1-20-11zoningboardofadjustmentagenda